Alexander Hamilton Papers

To Alexander Hamilton from Stephen Van Rensselaer, 6 November 1797

From Stephen Van Rensselaer

Water Vliet [New York] November 6. 1797

Dear Sir

I received your letter1 on the subject of Mr. Hoffmans embarrassments2 altho I always feel disposed to aid those who are in distress & particularly those for whom I have a friendship yet when I reflect on the extent of the operation proposed & the sacrifices I should be obliged to make to fulfill my engagements if I became responsible a sense of duty to my family forbids me acceding to the proposition. I congratulate you on the birth of your son.3 I hope he may inherit your talents & virtues. My wife as well as myself are much flattered with the name & joins me in love to Mrs H & Children.

Your Aff

S. V Rensselear

The Genl.4 has had an attack in the stomach. He is better again & out.

ALS, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.

1Letter not found.

2Josiah Ogden Hoffman, attorney general of New York, had speculated heavily in land and securities. Hoffman’s speculations were unsuccessful and led to his arrest for non-payment of debts in 1798. On October 22, 1798, Governor John Jay wrote to Hoffman: “… your pecuniary Embarrassments are considered as being incompatible with the Attention and Independence with which the Duties of your office should be executed” (ADf, Columbia University Libraries). Hoffman explained his financial difficulties in a letter to Jay on October 31, 1798: “… I observe, that I was arrested for near $11000, when the sum actually due, by the united opinions of General Hamilton, Mr [Richard] Harrison and Mr. [Robert] Troup, was only $1090.… It may be remarked, that the Cause of this Arrest was not for any debt of my own. As to the Unsettled state of my Accounts with the Publick, you will suffer me to remark, and I am sure, the force of the remark cannot escape your attention, that the unsettled state of a Public Officer’s Accounts, unaccompanied, by any Refusal to state and settle the same, can never in itself, be a just cause of Crimination.…

“There is one other source of Incompatibility, mentioned by your Excellency, ‘My pecuniary Embarassments’.… they have been occasioned by unforeseen Events, and principally from my being Security for others.… I have long determined, that if ever they should render me incapable of attending to the duties of my Office, that Moment it should be resigned.… It is flattering to me, to believe, from your professions of personal friendship and Regard, that you will be gratified in being informed, that these Embarassments have greatly subsided, that several of the most important demands against me, have been conveniently arranged, and that the few remaining ones, will, in all probability, be accomodated in a few Weeks.…” (ALS, Columbia University Libraries.) Hoffman settled his financial affairs and remained in office until February, 1802.

3William Stephen Hamilton was born on August 4, 1797.

4Philip Schuyler, father-in-law of H and Van Rensselaer.

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